ABOVE PHOTO: Don Lemon (Editorial credit: Ron Adar / Shutterstock.com)
By David Bauder
NEW YORK — CNN anchor Don Lemon tweeted an apology to viewers for his remarks about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley shortly before returning to work on Wednesday, then stuck to the news.
He made no mention of his comments last week that Haley was not in “her prime,” during “CNN This Morning,” instead reporting on stories like President Joe Biden’s trip to Ukraine, the Ohio train derailment and winter weather.
Lemon, within the hour before he went on the air, tweeted that he appreciated the opportunity to return to work. He was absent for three days.
“To my network, my colleagues and our incredible audience — I’m sorry,” he tweeted. “I’ve heard you, I’m learning from you, and I’m committed to doing better.”
His tweet made no mention of Haley, who called Lemon’s comments sexist and has been referring to them in fundraising appeals.
On last Thursday’s show, Lemon and fellow hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins had been discussing Haley’s suggestion that politicians over 75 should be subject to mandatory mental competency tests.
“Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry,” Lemon said. He said a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s. Haley is 51.
He doubled down on his message even after being challenged by his female colleagues. “I think we need to qualify,” Harlow said at one point. “Are you talking about prime for childbearing or are you talking about prime for being president?”
After video of his comments spread quickly online, Lemon tweeted regret for his “inartful and irrelevant” comments. He was scolded the next day by CNN chief executive Chris Licht during an internal staff meeting, and appeared on the call to apologize.
Late Sunday, Licht told staff members in a memo that Lemon would return to work and undergo unspecified training. Licht said in the memo, obtained by The Associated Press, that it was important that the network balance accountability with fostering a culture in which people “can own, learn and grow from their mistakes.”
Lemon was switched from his own prime-time show when a revamped “CNN This Morning” was launched in November, one of Licht’s biggest swings since taking control of the network last year.
Between poor ratings and awkwardness between the new anchor team, it hasn’t gone well.
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